At the start of 2010, I decided to start an ongoing list of websites that directly saved me money with the intent of sharing that list (and my money-saving experiences with each entry) when the list hit fifteen sites in length (perfect for a good post – not too few and not too many). I fired up OneNote (my default note-taking app) and just started jotting down any experiences I had where a website directly saved me money.
It only took until mid-April to reach that count.
Here they are – the fifteen websites that have directly saved me money so far in 2010, along with how exactly each one saved me money.
Craigslist (and its’ cousin, Freecycle)
http://www.craigslist.org and http://www.freecycle.org
This is definitely the big one, at least to this point in 2010. About a week ago, I posted an article talking about how we bought a 2004 Honda Pilot off of Craigslist, saving us quite a bit of coinage. Beyond that, we’ve also *almost* picked up three or four additional items off of Craigslist over the last few months but, as users know, stuff can sometimes go very fast on there. I usually just look for stuff that’s outrageously undervalued (a la yard sales on occasion) or free.
This has been my primary source of books for years. It’s simply online book swapping – mail out a book you’ve already read to someone who wants it and get a credit, then spend that credit to get a book from someone else. I get books in the mail for about $2 (the cost of sending out one of my old ones). Recent books to arrive in the mail include Foucault’s Pendulum by Unberto Eco, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Accidental by Ali Smith, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Skype allows you to use the internet as your telephone service, allowing you to call any number in the U.S., Canada, and a few other countries as well as have your own phone number for about $3 a month. I’ve been using Skype as my business number since last year and it’s worked like a charm. The best part? When I don’t want to deal with business calls, I just close the program. Problem solved.
My biggest problem with online coupon sites is that they often convince me to go ahead and buy stuff I don’t actually need or really even want if I thought about it rationally. Feedsifter allows me to set up automated searches of coupon sites for the things I actually want, then pumps the results to me. I’ve saved $10 on Magna-Tiles and about $30 on some All-Clad pans to replace our peeling Teflon-covered pans.
Of course, sometimes – in a short-term pinch when you have an urgent need for something – such coupon sites can actually come in handy. You’re going there with a purpose and you just find what you need. In one case – when we ordered pizza from Papa John’s online – Retail Me Not came in handy. It showed us a pile of coupon codes, including one that fit what we intended to order quite well, shaving some cash right off of our total bill.
Another time when a coupon site can be useful is when you go there for a specific purpose. Earlier this year, my wireless mouse failed and, after looking at a bunch of replacement options, I settled on several different models. One of them – the Microsoft Wireless Mouse 5000 – had a very nice price listed on DealCatcher, so I went for it, saving myself about $15 off of Amazon’s price and about $25 off of just running to Best Buy to get it.
As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been planning a summer trip up to the northern reaches of Minnesota. Over the years, I’ve used lots of travel sites for planning, but this time I’m using Kayak to help us figure out exactly where we’re going to camp and what services are nearby – with a four year old, a two year old, and a baby, something will come up, I’m quite sure.
Thanks to this website, we’ve hit several community events over the past few months, including Toddlerfest (which our children loved) and a few events at Iowa State University. It lists all kinds of events taking place all over Iowa during the entire year, allowing you to narrow it down as much as you’d like. Many other states have similar services.
Healthy Grocery List
Hand in hand with a grocery store flyer, I used this site to come up with a set of healthy recipes and a grocery list for those items a few different times. I’d take the flyer, find some recipes using a few of the fresh ingredients on sale, then generate a grocery list. I’d then cross a few items off the list (because they were already on hand) and add a few staples, then head out to the store. A day is coming when this type of interface is available for a home recipe collection and when that happens, I’ll be a happy man.
I’ve used this site several times while out and about, usually with my wife. We notice we need gas, so I fire up Gas Buddy on either her Kindle or my cell phone and we find the cheapest price on gas near us. More than once, we’ve driven right by a gas station to one a half mile further down the road with prices ten cents a gallon cheaper.
I use YouTube all the time for do-it-yourself projects. Two recent examples include a toilet repair (here) where I replaced the flapper and some other parts, and a video on replacing a shower head (here), which went incredibly smoothly after watching the video. In both cases, watching the video saved me from hiring a repairman or botching something badly myself.
We’re currently shopping for a new cell phone provider as my wife’s contract just ended. We identified at least three providers that will save us significant money (according to BillShrink) – we haven’t quite pulled the trigger because we’ve asked people we know about service issues with the various companies and are still deciding which one to take. So, this is more in the form of savings in the bush, not quite in the hand yet.
Yard Sale Treasure Map
I love going to yard sales. It’s a fun Saturday activity and every once in a while, you find a stupendous deal – I once found some trading cards worth hundreds of dollars in a box marked $1 and, several years ago, I found some rare Atari cartridges for $0.50 a piece. We’ve also picked up strollers and tricycles at yard sales. If nothing else, they’re quite entertaining and this site makes it easy to find ones near you.
We’re about to disconnect our cable entirely, saving us about $40 a month. Although we don’t watch much television, some of the series we do watch can be found on Hulu for free.
At the same time, we now subscribe to Netflix (a downgrade from $50 a month cable to $9 a month Netflix!). We watch streaming stuff on our Wii, including some children’s programming (like Follow That Bird and our son’s favorite show, Caillou) on rainy days. In fact, we’re likely going to shrink our DVD collection yet again because some of the disks are redundant with what’s available on Netflix.